The Real Meaning of Love
A great guy on the forum wrote to Dov about some of the struggles he is having in his relationship with his wife and with people. He is in his first few years of recovery and progressing nicely. Especially recently, his stepwork is getting stronger. But he is frustrated with the struggle, itself. Like all of us, he wishes that his wife responded more kindly, that the relationship with her went more smoothly, and that his relationship with people was improving faster, too. Dov shared this with him:
Please consider taking one little, real step at a time and you won't get ahead of yourself. Then you won't lose hope so often. It seems that change that is real comes slowly. Recovery does not happen in a test tube, greehouse, or beis midrash - it only happens in the crucible of real life. Not always pretty...but that's where all the real change occurs.
The ikkar in all the issues you raised boils down to one direction: Love your wife and look for ways to love her every day, sex or not; smile or not. As Chaza"l say in Gm' Brachos 9th perek, love is doing, not wishing - and it certainly is not wanting. When I do things for her benefit without expecting anything in return, things work out better. When I expect, things always work out poorly - even if she pays me back for it. Loving means nothing in return - this is a rough point to live by in a real relationship like marriage. We all get married with a laundry list of things we expect in return: children, calm in the home, sex, emotional support, understanding, patience, lots of slack cut for us, and lots of other OK things. There's nothing wrong with any of those things...but they need to be gifts we get from G-d and His people, not payment.
That's why gratitude is so unnatural for us - it has to be worked on...why? It's cuz we (especially addicts) operate on an 'emotional economic system' of payment, not free gifts from Hashem. We imagine everything must be deserved, and everything we get is somehow either deserved, or stolen. And those we favor, aught repay us with gratitude, admiration, favors, or - in the case of the spouse, with sex. Oh, and willingly...maybe desperately willingly. Gevalt.
In reality, He does not need to do anything for us...certainly not in this world. So all is a free gift - a gift He gives us for some good purpose of His. For there is nothing we can ever do to really repay Him. Zero. "Mi hikdimani va'ashalem?" But I am not teaching Judaism here. I am sharing about life as an addict. Any other attitude simply does not work for an addict like me. The less I stray out of the boundaries of it, the better my life is, the more I stray, the harder my life gets. And the harder it gets for those around me.
Consider taking it easy, slow down, expect less progress and do more stuff for your wife. In other words, just love her.
After the member sums it up, Dov responds:
You recapped what I suggested and made a great list, but you left out the loving. Gevalt!
Love her. Actively. Take the actions of love - it is the ikkar especially for addicts. Our loving ability is crippled. We have all spent years going "for the unreal, the connection that has the magic because it bypasses real intimacy and true union." (SA White Book, "The Problem").
Search for ways to do for her with no concern about returns. It's the only way I know to get better, be"H.
You may think you already do, so what's there to talk about? But loving - really loving...is rachok mitziyur sichleinu. It takes work and is all about helping and being useful, not at all about feeling good.
v'sof ha-'feelings' lavo.